The other day I posted on enclave about my ongoing pursuit to find out what it means to be human.
I am a human. Yeah, sure. I have a body. I have a conscience. I exist. I guess.
I’m not sure how I feel about being human. I mean, I accept it, because what else can I do. But I fantasize a lot about being a ghost. I like to imagine myself passing through walls and listening in on conversations without having to be acknowledged. I like the idea of being able to experience without necessarily having to participate. But I have all of my death to be a ghost, so maybe I should just come to terms with being human for now.
I want to know what being human means to other humans. I want to know how they cope. What they love about being human, and what they hate about it. So I slid into some DMs on facebook late one night last week.
Sending private messages on facebook after midnight to make existential inquiries seems extremely appropriate to me.
Here are the questions I asked:
How do you feel about being human?
What are the best/worst things about being human?
Do you ever try to forget you’re human and if so what do you do? What do you do to fully feel human?
I don’t know right now, I have a lot of conflicting feelings about being human, gripping with my existence and that of everyone around me, I’m a little lost. The best parts being human definitely has to be the nearly overwhelming volley of sensations bombarding us on a day to day basis, I live for that. I think the worst part of being human is my frustration, my inability to help, my sense of wandering in a void with no goal in sight, lack of vision.
Yes I do sometimes [try to forget I’m human], I get a little caught up in our supposed ‘dominance’ over other animals I forget we are nothing but plain old human born here to die.
— I try to ground myself, I let myself know that I exist now, I am mortal, my time on earth should be spent on altruistic endeavors, instead of being the selfish person I am.
I think to be fully human, is to attempt to understand (not sympathize with) every aspect of the human condition, or at least attempt to. That includes extreme brutality, mental illness etc but also every great aspect of our humanity. I believe that visceral artistic self expression of the human condition is the purest form of humanity.
[Being human] is something that I try not to think about too much. I am always trying to focus on the exact moment that I’m in, similar to how a cat might do, and forget how my body/humanity moves through it. Best thing is being able to express myself through human language. Worst thing is constant self-awareness, guilt, and fear. There are certain drugs that make me feel like I am on the bottom of an aquarium. I like watching the world go by that way, like I am a spectator and not a participant. To feel fully human I force myself to go into a room full of people, like a poetry reading, and connect.
Well, I figure if we’re here and we’re human we might as well make the best of it, though if it were my job to give advice to nebulous things drifting about the void, wondering whether or not they should give the human thing a go, I can’t say I’d recommend it without reservation. I think the best things are many of the experiences that are, for the most part, unique to humankind. Being able to experience art and music and the concept of beauty beyond ourselves, the joy of creation. being moved by what others have created. And maybe the worst thing is knowing all the good things exist but not having access to them, when they feel beyond your capacity to participate in and enjoy. The nagging feeling that something essential to you is missing. And of course, the general human condition; knowing you and everyone you love will eventually die, quite possibly in unpleasant ways. Knowledge of death and our own smallness I think brings a certain kind of loneliness that only humans know. Yes. I do enjoy trying to forget I’m human now and then…for me i guess I use combinations of things like alcohol and other drugs, music, art (either creating or experiencing someone else’s), various forms of entertainment…anything that allows you to immerse yourself in it to a point where you can lose yourself for a while, or at least try your damnedest..
I’m not always sure what makes me feel fully human, but I know it when it happens..sometimes it’s communicating with another human on some meaningful level, understanding that you are going through the same thing, at least up to a point, in your time upon the earth. Other times, just being by myself and NOT having to interact with others for extended periods makes me feel the most human – when I actually have time to acknowledge and listen to myself.
I think being human is pretty fucked up. having an awareness of ur own mortality (and now our mortality as a planet) but no real ability to integrate/understand what it is to die…that is tough. idk. humans are nature in the same way that whales and clouds and cyanide are nature, and I like thinking about that. while I don’t believe in any kind of anthropomorphized meaning (which is to say I don’t think there is a purpose to life that centers human beings) it does seem to me that nature has its own logic/pattern that is overall pretty brutal but also intensely beautiful, incredibly interesting and even pretty funny. I think the best parts about being human are laughing really hard and coming up with an unlikely creative solution to a problem that seems insurmountable. I think the worst thing about being a human is being intelligent enough to see that everything is failing but not intelligent enough to know what to do about it.
I don’t really try to forget that I’m human but I do love to stare into my cats eyes and also be completely submerged under water. Come to think if it, I think that the best way to feel fully human IS to forget that you are human.
Rafael Iniguez is an internet phenomenon. Nadia de Vries (b. 1991) is a Dutch poet. William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. Elaine Kahn is an Oakland based poet and musician.